The proposed expansion of operations at the Leadville Mill has the potential to affect the quality of life in Lake County in many ways.
The mill, operated by Union Milling, is seeking a permit to process large amounts of mine tailings, up to 80 truckloads per day, at their mill located next to a residential neighborhood off U.S. 24 between Stringtown and Saturday’s. These tailings will be trucked in from the historic mining district and from further afield. This could have a significant impact on traffic, noise, air quality, road surface condition, health and safety. Imagine heavily loaded trucks full of mine tailings rumbling down through town at all hours of the day and night. Will disturbing and trucking the tailings release heavy metals into the environment? What will be the impact on air and water quality and wildlife? Didn’t the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work for years to stabilize the tailings? Will we become a Superfund site again?
The mill anticipates requiring 30,000-40,000 gallons of water per day. They plan to purchase this from Parkville Water District. Is this a responsible use of a precious resource? Will this affect the price of water?
Another concern is the use of sodium cyanide — 24 tons a month — to process the tailings. In addition to the potential for accidental release into the environment from the mill site, it will need to be trucked in on our highways. Do we want to play Russian roulette with the Arkansas River?
I believe we need to act now to protect Lake County’s environment from this potential threat. The agencies involved in the permitting process are the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Lake County Planning and Zoning Commission, Lake County Board of County Commissioners, U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and possibly the EPA. If this issue concerns you, please contact one or more of these entities. It is expected that decisions will be made in October.
The Herald Democrat reported in a previous article that Union Milling will hold meetings to inform the public once their permit is approved. That will be too late. We need to know and we need to know now.